Cesar [Ruiz] had a couple lapses in pass pro but can you talk about how he run blocked and how he acquitted himself after you saw him on film?
“Yeah, really just the one in pass pro where he didn’t track the 3-technique. Thought the 3-technique was looping wide and got his eyes back inside. Yeah, the rest of the game he acquitted himself very well. Everybody on the offensive line, it was a memorable game for offensive linemen in this game.
“The other thing I was really impressed with with the offensive line and our whole offense was the amount of hustle. There was an early run with Karan [Higdon] and Cesar got up off the ground and was sprinting in pursuit. Mason Cole was sprinting in pursuit. It was a memorable game in terms of the effort and the hustle and the pursuit by the offense.
“The receivers, the way they blocked, Donovan had one of those decleaters in the game. Eddie McDoom had his most physical game in terms of blocking. Nate Schoenle was very effective as well. There was no loafs in the receiver group, you could say. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to catch passes, but their gray undershirts were still sweaty. They were really working hard to get the team to victory and it showed up in a lot of areas.
“It showed up defensively. The hustle, it showed up on special teams and yeah, really good play that way. Cesar was right in there. Just looked athletic, you know, getting up and chasing our backs down the field and trying to get in on the action and get the block, so very impressive.”
After you got a chance to watch the film and go back and re-evaluate, how do you think Brandon [Peters] handled his first start and everything involved. Obviously wasn’t asked to throw a lot but with everything involved, how do you think he handled that?
“Very well. He was very effective in the first drive and yeah, there was two throws he should have hit that came up short and that was my feeling after the game that we’ve got to keep him more loose during the game. Had a screen pass that could have gone really big. It was the one time we had three offensive linemen that not one of them picked up a block. I think it was a screen to Chris Evans that should have really gone, should have really busted out.
“But yeah, good. Could have hit a couple more, but nothing close to an interception. Nothing close to turning the ball over even though he took some big shots it the pocket. Thought he held onto the ball well and did the things to keep us from losing the ball game. Did the things to help us win the ball game. Know he can execute all throws, so feel good going forward.”
[After THE JUMP: Peters’ progress, Speight update, Ben Mason’s nickname, and the time to bounce]
11/4/2017 – Michigan 33, Minnesota 10 – 7-2, 4-2 Big Ten
FACE TO FACE [Bryan Fuller]
Michigan has a new starting quarterback, a highly touted redshirt freshman who flashed potential a week ago. This week he got his first-ever start, completed some simple throws early, and then went home to have a cheese sandwich. Probably? Maybe? I don't recall if he continued playing after the first drive.
He probably did. Starting quarterbacks leaving the stadium during a game tend to make the news. I think I remember a hitch on third down in there somewhere, now that you mention it. But if Brandon Peters hadn't stayed around the result would have been little different, because Michigan's rushing game can optimistically be termed a Ground Assault now. Michigan assaulted a large number of Gophers on Saturday night. They did not battle or fight or contest Minnesota, because all those terms imply a certain evenness. They assaulted Minnesota, like a gang of Hell's Angels descending on a gaming convention. "Aaaaaargh, why are you still playing Settlers of Catan instead of something fun," screamed Michigan's running game, metaphorically. Also, I hope, literally because Catan is trash dot emoji.
I don't even have to subtract sacks to bring you a stat that's absurd: 10 yards per carry. Ten. One first down of yardage per carry. Also this:
I'm genuinely not sure which is more impressive: that they averaged 6.9 ypc after contact, or that they averaged 6.6 ypc BEFORE contact. https://t.co/X5DxY06RSG
In three weeks there will be a ripped from the headlines Law & Order episode in which Michigan is convicted of murder in the zeroth degree, because of this game. Ice T will accuse Michigan of being hopped up on Zebra Glitter and only be half-wrong. Michigan is hopped up on life, Ice T. Life and 60+ yard rushing touchdowns. And murder.
ANKLE TO FACE [Fuller]
And now for the lame bit: hoping this sticks. Falling apart at the end has been the fate of all excellent Michigan football things over the past decade or so. The 2006 defense. Denard Robinson's elbow. Chad Henne's shoulder. Last year's top 5 team. Michigan's pursuit of David Cutcliffe. All of these things ended poorly.
Also some less than excellent ones like Brady Hoke. And last year's passing offense. You probably don't remember this but this was the state of Michigan's passing attack after nine games last year:
Speight's 8.9 YPA leads the Big Ten by almost a half yard and is 11th nationally.
His 15-3 TD/INT ratio is second in the Big Ten to JT Barrett (21-4).
His passer rating is now five points clear of Perry Hills for best in the league and is 14th nationally.
He's fifth nationally in ESPN's QBR metric, which accounts for rushing yards and SOS.
I wrote that and can barely remember it in the soup that followed. Michigan got ambushed in Iowa City the next week—though not as ambushed as Ohio State did on Saturday, amirite—and Speight got hurt at the end of that game. Since it's been somewhere between coping and total disaster against teams not named Purdue.
So it must be mentioned that the parking lots that were once Rutgers and Minnesota are very likely to be terrible run defenses, and Minnesota's was badly hurt by their injury issues in the secondary. Back when Harbaugh was hired I talked about his Stanford offenses, which went against the prevailing trends in college football by putting very big guys on little guys; here Michigan put no guys on the littlest guys. They ignored the Minnesota cornerbacks and saw that decision pay off with a series of comically bad attempts to execute a run fit. This kind of hamblasting is always equal parts you, the opponent, and luck.
DESPAIR TO FACE [Fuller]
If you're still waiting for the other shoe to drop, that is a well-learned tendency. I sort of am as well. The last two opponents did not have sufficient confidence in their secondaries to jam everyone forward, and they were probably correct to do so. Michigan's passing game is still almost totally nonexistent, and the two heavies at the back end of the schedule are going to make Michigan suffer for that deficiency.
Probably, anyway. Michigan has been steadily building to this for half a season and will continue refining now that they've put their foot down and become a thing. That thing is a semi truck careening wildly towards the end of the season. Maybe it will flip over in a ditch. Maybe it will careen right through a series of animals and trees until the thick paste on the grill is an unspeakable mélange of the defeated.
no no no no no no no no no[Eric Upchurch]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Khaleke Hudson. Michigan appears to have noticed what we did while taping the podcast on Sunday: Chase Winovich got credit for the sack on the intentional grounding call. They've fixed that and are now claiming 3 sacks and 8 TFLs for Hudson. The former is a solo Don Brown Hat Trick; the latter is a school record. So, yeah, that's good enough.
Gotta block that punt, though.
#2(t) Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. The backs edge ahead of their top blockers this week because they made a lot for themselves. Higdon ran through Cesar Ruiz on his first big run and set a number of others up with hard cuts after initial feints that bought him a second level block. For his part, Evans ripped off two 60+ yard TDs, the second one featuring a broken tackle near the line of scrimmage on an unblocked linebacker.
#3(t) Mason Cole and Ben Bredeson. Two gentlemen that did work on the opposition defense, consistently and ruthlessly. JBB and Ruiz narrowly miss because their pass protection was alarming.
Honorable mention: Mo Hurst did his usual Mo Hurst things. The rest of the front seven was impregnable on anything but a jet sweep. JBB and Ruiz and Kugler do deserve some recognition for their ground efforts.
8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue) 7: Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU, T2 Minnesota). 6: Mason Cole (#1 Cincinnati, T2 Rutgers, T3 Minnesota). 5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana, #1 Rutgers), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU, #1 Minnesota). 4: David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU) 3: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana)) 2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue, #3 Rutgers), Mike Onwenu(T2 Rutgers), Chris Evans(T2 Minnesota). 1: Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana), Ben Bredeson(T3 Minnesota).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Uh... let's pick the first Evans touchdown, on which he broke a linebacker tackle and then glided into the endzone.
Fun fact: I always think "glode" is the right past tense of "glide" for one point six seconds.
Honorable mention: Higdon's enormous touchdown. The other enormous Evans touchdown. Enormous Higdon run that doesn't reach the endzone. Khaleke Hudson tomahawks the ball out from Demry Croft; Hudson tackles for loss like seven more times.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Quinn Nordin misses another extra point. What's the deal man? #collegekickers? Let's not #collegekickers. Let's not do that at all.
Honorable mention: Nordin pushes a 49 yarder just wide; Peters is thundersacked on third down on consecutive third quarter drives; Minnesota has a legitimate touchdown drive; rush is stopped for three yards. Hudson doesn't block that punt.
For the second time this season they turned on the lights at Michigan Stadium, and for the second time this season nature showed its unabashed disapproval. Unlike last month, though, Michigan avoided throwing caution to the wind and, for the most part, avoided throwing at all. Michigan’s running game put up 371 yards, a performance Michigan fans haven’t seen the likes of since…well, I’d probably have to ask the people I saw in front of the stadium with commemorative Rose Bowl canvas tote bags.
The ominous been-here-before feeling that hung over the stadium lasted three plays. Demry Croft hit slot receiver Phillip Howard for 25 yards on a busted Josh Metellus coverage on 3rd-and-7; they then rushed for no gain and passed for eight before Maurice Hurst tipped a Croft pass and nearly intercepted it himself, forcing Minnesota to punt.
Brandon Peters got his first career start for the Wolverines and, on their first play from scrimmage, hit Donovan Peoples-Jones for an easy eight yards. From there Karan Higdon carried for 47, a Khalid Hill dive converted a 3rd-and-1, and Peters hit Sean McKeon on a throwback screen for 20 yards and a touchdown. The drive accounted for 32 of Peters’ 56 passing yards on the night, including his lone touchdown. Michigan was largely able to shelve the passing game before the midpoint of the first quarter.
Minnesota responded with a well-executed drive, first hitting Howard—who was again uncovered in the slot—for 16 before calling nine consecutive rushes, including a 10-yard toss to Rodney Smith that Brandon Watson closed hard on but was unable to keep out of the end zone.
Two plays later, Karan Higdon needed one cut and a nice seal of the edge from Khalid Hill to go 77 yards for a score. The ominous feeling had lifted, replaced by an offense averaging 18.3 yards per play.
By the midpoint in the second quarter, Don Brown had made his adjustments, Khaleke Hudson had already racked up seven tackles, and Chris Evans had started to trade long runs with Higdon. Evans put up back-to-back runs of 18 and 60 yards to put Michigan up 20-7, and Michigan finished the half with 266 yards on the ground; Higdon had 163 on nine carries, while Evans had 111 on six.
Michigan came out flat after halftime, going three-and-out on their first two drives of the third quarter. Minnesota took advantage of a short field and a couple of successful runs from their backs to creep into Michigan territory. Croft then dropped back to pass on 2nd-and-10. Hudson went over a cut block and lived up to his “Hitman” twitter handle, ripping down Croft’s arm and forcing a fumble that was recovered by Chase Winovich. The backs alternated carries again, Peters never had to look off his first read in Peoples-Jones to get 10 yards on a dig on 3rd-and-6, and Higdon then twisted his way into the end zone from five yards out. Michigan’s score off the turnover put them up 27-7 and essentially ensured that the Little Brown Jug would stay safely in Ann Arbor, spared from having to endure another Stanley Cup-esque tour of the land of 10,000 lakes.
The rest of the game played out in uniform fashion for Michigan. Don Brown’s unit was no longer surprised by Minnesota’s sweep action, while the offensive line continued to open holes for the running backs. Cesar Ruiz stepped in for the injured Mike Onwenu and showed that he could pull and target well in the run game in his first career start; he was yanked from the game after a pass-pro mishap resulted in a sack of Brandon Peters. The rest of the line had similar difficulties with Minnesota’s stunts, but they more than made up for it with their ability to gap-block; counters, power, and dives were enough to put Minnesota away.
The most eventful bit of the second half came at the end of the third quarter, when a Minnesota player appeared to punch a Michigan player after the play. Minnesota’s Donnell Greene was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and tossed from the game, as was Josh Metellus. Metellus acquired his penalty for reasons that remain unclear; asked what explanation the referees provided, Harbaugh said “it really didn’t have a lot of logic to it” but that it involved there being a scrum and Metellus walking toward it; he followed that with a low “womp, womp.”
Michigan’s defense, led by Khaleke Hudson’s 6.5 TFLs and 2 sacks, looked like it usually does: excellent 90% of the time, in need of adjustment 5% of the time, and cursed in coverage 5% of the time. The story tonight, though, was Michigan’s offense emphatically demonstrating that they, too, have an identity, a new usual.
“Looked up at one point and the statistics looked like we were Air Force. Thought we were Air Force the way we were running the ball,” Harbaugh said. And poor damn Don Brown thought he was done with them weeks ago.
Arizona is ranked for the first time in a minute after four straight Pac-12 wins. Tate watched Arizona's first four games from the sideline. Last year he completed 40% of his 45 passes and rushed for under 5 yards a carry.
A bit further north in that same conference, Stanford barely escaped an awful Oregon State team as QB Keller Chryst averaged 4.3 yards an attempt. Sophomore KJ Costello played the vast majority of previous high-scoring wins over UCLA and Arizona State. Twitter was rife with bitching about Chryst and stupefaction at what it would take for Costello to enter the game as the Cardinal labored towards a win over the 1-7 Beavers. You may remember that Michigan's first choice at QB two years ago was Costello; it was only after he committed to Stanford that Michigan started looking around.
A bit further south in that same conference, Sam Darnold watched USC start 1-2 under Max Browne last year before emerging as a 67%, 3000-yard, 31-9 TD-INT flamethrower and Rose Bowl winner.
A bit closer to home, Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke spent most of the 2016 season watching Tyler O'Connor bork it before getting a chance midway through the year. A few years back MSU also spent a brief, wonderful period as the worst offense on the planet under Andrew Maxwell before pulling the trigger on the Connor Cook era. Wisconsin left Alex Hornibrook, the conference's #2 QB by passer rating, on the bench early last year, and then benched him for their final two games.
Nobody knows! Even coaches. Coaches think things. They have the limited amount of data that practice provides, and then there is game data, and all of this information pales in comparison to a giant, looming Fear Of The Unknown. Some decisions make themselves; others have to wait until there's literally no way a second-year player is worse.
There is a moment when even if the backup sometimes seems like a semi-sentient radish in a human suit, he's the man, man. Welcome to that moment.
John O'Korn's struggles after Purdue sent the Michigan internet down a fairly appalling rabbit hole of speculation about Brandon Peters. "Promising young player stuck on bench for bad reasons" is such a trope that everyone knows the name of an otherwise obscure baseball player who Lou Gehrig replaced: Wally Pipp. The hundred-year persistence of this pattern was not good enough.
Nor were a plethora of recent examples at Michigan itself: Mike Hart behind David Underwood. Ben Gedeon behind Joe Bolden. Heck, even this very year Michigan went with Nolan Ulizio despite the fact Juwann Bushell-Beatty is older and apparently better. Sometimes the wrong guy is playing.
None of this mattered. O'Korn was bad so something had to be wrong with his backup.
So the last few weeks you couldn't throw a rock on a Michigan message board without hitting someone either implying or directly stating that Peters was a weird aspie with a fidget spinner and no future, Rain Man in a helmet. It's one thing when this comes from anonymous insider wannabes and entirely another when Rivals's Chris Balas calls a redshirt freshman a "big recruiting mistake" and says he "wouldn't be surprised" if Peters transferred.
Gasoline on the whisper fire, based on nothing. And this the second time Rivals has fueled baseless Peters transfer rumors that had to be debunked. The first time it was by Peters's father. This time Peters did it himself.
It turns out Brandon Peters is at least as plausible a second-year quarterback as anyone else suspected of being a sentient radish. Never in the history of Michigan Stadium has a soft toss in the flat or a fullback checkdown been met with more rapture, because everyone was worried that there was a good reason Peters was behind O'Korn, and that meant doom both now and later. Rutgers guys were annoyed at it, for some reason:
"It seemed like the crowd was kind of obnoxiously cheering," Rutgers redshirt senior Dorian Miller said with a smile. "(Peters) completed a 10-yard ball and the crowd belted out. Football is football, so I'm sure you could apply that to any team and the fans would respond like that. It's not a knock on them."
Just when folks who haven't seen Peters in action started wondering if this guy's arm strength was substandard, Peters stepped up in the pocket and ripped a laser at a receiver just in front of a safety. The ball got in a half second before the safety arrived, and the absurdity of the whisper campaign really settled in.
Brandon Peters is a quarterback in 2017, which means he was scouted to death in high school. And the thing that really leapt out to both Ace and I was that slow build to a ripping throw. Peters has the natural ability to vary his throws so they're catchable when they can be and darts when they have to be. That featured in his recruiting profile:
He varies trajectory and speed based on the situation. My favorite throws in the Brownsburg game above are two high-arc, low speed passes to his tight end that are the exact right throws in those situations. That's the definition of a "catchable ball."
Peters seemed like a savant, especially in the aftermath of Shane Morris's approach to the game. He had no QB guru, like most quarterbacks do these days. He ripped through high school football. This wasn't a guy completing half his passes who might be moldable into a guy down the road. Personality issues didn't prevent Peters from impressing the entire recruiting industry and flying up rankings after a senior year ending at the Army game.
So what are we doing when we search for some personality flaw when a second year player can't get into the game just yet? Why is a mountain of evidence from across college football not enough? And so what if the dude is more engineer than prom king?
Even if Brandon Peters isn't George Clooney—and I'm not saying he is or is not—has anyone actually seen Rain Man? Placed in his element, Rain Man is a baller.
this guy's mustache got an HM [Barron]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Rashan Gary. Gary was rampant, consistently blowing around the corner to sack and/or terrify the quarterback. The Rutgers LT gets some NFL hype; Gary, and Chase Winovich to a slightly less rampant extent, made that guy look like a walk-on.
#2(t) Mason Cole and Mike Onwenu. Cole and Onwenu tentatively seemed like Michigan's most mauling OL on a rewatch, but probably I could have given this to any member of the blocking crew and not been particularly off.
#3 Sean McKeon. McKeon was able to dig out a throw low and behind him to convert a third and long; he was the only guy to pull in multiple passes. He probably would have scored on that fourth down if Peters put it on him. In addition, McKeon's blocking was excellent for a second consecutive week.
Honorable mention: That guy's mustache. Poggi, Hill, Kugler, JBB, and Bredeson all chipped in on a dominating ground game. Isaac and Higdon made the most out of the blocking. Winovich, Hurst, and Bush were all their usual selves.
8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue) 5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana), Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana, #1 Rutgers), Mason Cole (#1 Cincinnati, T2 Rutgers). 4: David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU) 3: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana)) 2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue, #3 Rutgers), Mike Onwenu(T2 Rutgers). 1: Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Brandon Peters completes a short waggle pass to Ty Wheatley for a first down.
Honorable mention: Peters completes another soft toss to Poggi on his next opportunity. Higdon breaks free for a game-sealing long touchdown. Kareem Walker scores. Various annihilations of the Rutgers quarterback. Various annihilations of the Rutgers front seven.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Michigan misses a run fit against a wildcat formation, ceding a long touchdown that tied the score at 7. At the time it felt like that was the start of a very long day indeed. Also long wildcat touchdowns remind me of the Penn State game.
Honorable mention: O'Korn throws a pick in the direction of Gentry when he's covered by a 5'9" guy; O'Korn fumbles the snap and Michigan eats a 14 yard loss; Rutgers uses the same damn screen play MSU scored on to get down to the two.
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FORMATION NOTES. It was a manball outing, with 31 one-or-zero WR snaps. There were 23 two-WR snaps and 15 three-WR snaps, many of those on obvious passing downs. When not forced into WRs Michigan had an extreme preference for tight ends and fullbacks.
IU kept their safeties increasingly close to the LOS as the day progressed for obvious reasons. They did one weird thing with this gap in the line:
Their front was multiple, as they like to say, bouncing between even, under, over, and even some 3-4 stuff. They also had a few plays with a five-man line when they were trying to slow down Michigan's heavy sets. Here's Indiana in an under front with the FLAG OF DOOM waving:
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. Thin rotation. O'Korn went the whole way at QB. OL was the new usual with Bushell-Beatty playing the whole way at RT. Hill and Poggi split FB snaps; no Mason. TE was mostly Gentry and McKeon, with a healthy number of Wheatley and Bunting snaps. Eubanks didn't play.
RB was mostly Higdon with Evans and Isaac making cameos; Walker got two snaps and one carry. WR was DPJ, Crawford, Perry, and some Ways. DPJ seemed to get more snaps this week.
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With limited exceptions Michigan was not inclined to (or able to) force MSU out of their 4-3 over with two safeties at 8-10 yards, and so this happened the whole game. This could have been okay, but it was not okay, but that's what all the stuff below is about.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. O'Korn the whole way at QB. OL was Cole/Bredeson/Kugler/Onwenu/Ulizio until just before the half when JBB came in, and remained. No Runyan or Ruiz this time out. TE rotation was fairly even between Bunting, Wheatley, Gentry, and McKeon, but the latter two got the bulk of the at-bats. Wheatley is still mostly a blocking option since he's got a cast on.
WR was DPJ, Crawford, and Perry with a number of McDoom and Ways snaps. Schoenle did not play. Injury, I assume. FB alternated between Hill and Poggi, as per usual, but Mason got maybe a half-dozen snaps.
RB was about half Higdon, half Evans, with Isaac filling out the remaining snaps. Isaac's fumble obviously limited his playing time.
John O'Korn (#8) breathed life into the Michigan offense. [Patrick Barron]
While it certainly wasn't how they planned it, Michigan may have solved their passing problems.
The trip to Purdue couldn't have started off much worse. Facing a fired-up, trash-talking Boilermakers squad, the Wolverines looked ripe for an upset in the first half. For a while, the game seemed designed for maximum frustration; first the preceding baseball game went into extra innings, causing out-of-staters to scramble to find the Fox Business Channel. Then, more disconcertingly, the offense looked even more broken than before.
Karan Higdon rushed for a first down on Michigan's first offensive snap. They'd go three-and-out to follow; the next two drives ended in the same fashion. The offensive line couldn't protect Wilton Speight or open up holes for the backs, the playcalling felt predictable and conservative. Midway through the first quarter, the game was deadlocked in an ugly scoreless draw.
Then an awkward hit changed the course of the game, and perhaps Michigan's season. As Markus Bailey came through the line untouched to sack Speight, 295-pound defensive tackle Eddy Wilson delivered a second blow that crumpled Michigan's quarterback, who stayed down before eventually being taken for X-rays and further testing. This was disaster. Yes, Speight hadn't been good this season, but he'd won the job for the second straight year over John O'Korn, and O'Korn didn't inspire any confidence in his previous appearances in maize and blue.
Zach Gentry dives for the touchdown. [Eric Upchurch]
So, of course, O'Korn promptly led the offense on a 13-play, 84-yard touchdown drive, completing all five of his passes, including a 12-yard scoring toss to Zach Gentry. Michigan had finally broken through. Two questions loomed. First, could Purdue counter? Second, could O'Korn keep it going?
The early returns weren't good in either regard. The Boilermakers hit back on the very next drive, covering 75 yards in only five plays after switching from David Blough to Elijah Sindelar at quarterback. O'Korn followed that with an interception after he threw a ball well behind Kekoa Crawford. Purdue cashed in with a field goal and entered halftime with a 10-7 lead. The Boilermakers had outgained Michigan 179 yards to 131. With Michigan's offense primed to struggle, the game would likely come down to a battle of wits between Purdue mad scientist Jeff Brohm and Don Brown.
Purdue would finish the game with 189 yards. Winner: Brown.
The total dominance by the defense would've been enough to avoid the upset. The offense, to everyone's considerable relief, did much more than rely on that to carry the day. After a punt and a lost fumble by Higdon, Michigan mounted an 11-play, 86-yard drive that calmed a lot of nerves. The coaches seemed to simplify the playbook for O'Korn, who looked to his tight ends and Grant Perry to catch and run with short passes. The drive only got going in the first place when O'Korn improbably spun out of a sack, reset, and hit Perry to covert a third down. It ended on a gorgeous playcall when M lined up showing a crack sweep look but instead had Chris Evans hit an interior hole off the pitch; the unexpected constraint play allowed him to waltz in from ten yards out.
Chase Winovich, with three sacks, had another dominant game. [Bryan Fuller]
O'Korn's next drive featured more creating outside the pocket, more big plays to Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry, and a targeting penalty on Purdue's Jawhaun Bentley. Ty Isaac finished that one off from a yard out, squeezing through a tackle off the right side and bursting into the end zone.
At this point, Purdue was desperately flipping quarterbacks, but had no answer for Michigan's ferocious defense. Blough re-entered in the fourth quarter only to be pummeled into the turf. After the eighth of nine three-and-outs forced by the Wolverines, Evans broke the game wide open with a 49-yard slice through the gut of the defense. Up 28-10 against a team that couldn't move the ball, Michigan went into clock-killing mode. The final six minutes and change passed in a hurry, helped along when Mike Wroblewski knocked the ball out of Terry Wright's hands for a Noah Furbush fumble recovery.
After averaging a woeful 3.7 yards per play in the first half, Michigan hummed along at a 7.3-yard clip in the second. O'Korn, despite a couple hiccups, looked like a completely different player from the one who underwhelmed when Speight was hurt last year. The defense, meanwhile, amassed five sacks, three of them by Chase Winovich, and took the run away from the Boilermakers entirely.
After the game, Jim Harbaugh said Speight suffered a "soft tissue" injury and declined to give a timeline for how long he'd be out. With a bye week ahead to work with the first-team offense, however, it's hard to imagine O'Korn hasn't earned his shot to lead this team against Michigan State. At the very least, Michigan heads into their week off at 4-0 and finally carrying some momentum on offense.
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FORMATION NOTES: Michigan didn't do anything weird except for a fake-out Emory And Henry on the first snap they never returned to.
Cincinnati mostly played a 4-3 under, sometimes with a standup end.
Line slid away from the strength of the formation, WDE stands up, SAM type substance. They played a lot like a 3-4, with three big DL and the linebacker type guy, even if they didn't have a guy lining up head up on the C:
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL and QB remained the same. No Runyan run-out this week. Cesar Ruiz got one snap as a super jumbo TE. Isaac was the primary back with Evans and Higdon getting maybe a quarter of the snaps each.
Crawford and Perry were the top receivers in snaps garnered with Black and DPJ splitting the other outside WR snaps. McDoom had some limited time; Nate Schoenle got maybe ten snaps, none of which he was targeted on. TE remained a blender, with McKeon, Wheatley, and Gentry most prominent.
[After THE JUMP: absolutely no discussion of the QB situation, sorry]